Garden design for low maintenance

Today’s typical urban dweller hardly has the time or the money to spend on plants and devoting their weekends to garden work.

While they may appreciate a beautiful garden as a place to entertain or a source of fresh lettuce and tomatoes, they are often too busy with family, work and social life.

Fortunately, it is possible to have a stylish, luscious, functional, plant-rich garden without all the sweat. In fact, thoughtful, well-designed low-maintenance gardens don’t look it.

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They are just smarter and better adapted to the site and the local micro-climate. Above all, they suit the lifestyle needs and aesthetic tastes of the owner.

Don’t get it wrong; low maintenance landscaping is not a landscaping style in itself.

Rather, it involves applying certain principles in order to adapt gardens of diverse styles, size, cost and location to the prevailing site conditions and owners lifestyle. Here are some of them:

Keep it simple

Keep the basic structure and form of the garden strong and simple. From the start as you conceptualise your garden design, reduce design ideas to a few bold concepts that you like the most.

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Adornments and embellishments are great but should be applied sparingly only where they are necessary.  

Leave the complications to the plants, which by their very nature as living things are complex, multi-layered and always changing.

In the same vein, avoid too much variety in selecting your plant and hardscape materials. Too many different kinds of plants create a maintenance nightmare.

Go for a handful of different species of shrubs and ground covers and repeat them in masses and swathes of similar kinds.

Such repetition creates a pleasing rhythm, and makes gardens easier to care for.

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Edit the extraneous

When it comes to low maintenance landscaping, less is definitely more. You will need to make some hard choices here.

Resist the temptation to include all the great things you like but your garden doesn’t need.

Take a good look around and edit out all the non-essential stuff that don’t add to the function or beauty of the garden. In the end, each space, plant, artwork, furniture and architectural element should be fully utilised.

Down to earth

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A healthy garden starts from the soil up. Keep your soil healthy with lots of organic fertiliser and sound maintenance practices such as mulching and drip irrigation. Choose your plants and materials wisely, giving special consideration to regional materials and native plants that are better adapted to the local micro-climate and soils.

Instead of trying to change your soil to suit certain exotic species of plants, choose plants that would almost naturally grow in your yard with little extra care.

-The writer is a landscape architect  

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